Sunday, March 12, 2017

Need a Good Laugh?

There are few things making us laugh these days and so I think we all need a good one!  As a mom who has struggled to stay professional in the workforce, this recent incident just tickles me more than I can say.  I think I have watched this dad and his wife deal with their adorable kids over and over and over and still cry from laughter at it.

I thought it was hilarious when the dancing girl came in.  Then to be followed by the kid in the walker... I started to pee my pants.  And then the frantic mom (who many think may have been taking a quick bathroom break when they escaped).  OMG.  For every woman (and man) who has desperately tried to balance their work with kids - this is a GIFT to us all. As one person said in the NYT comments, I hope these parents laugh and understand how this isn't a reflection on them - but a gift to the entire working community of families in the world - and that they play it at every wedding and major event in those kids lives!!

When I started as a newly minted PhD, I was the only woman with a doctorate at a 350 person engineering engineering company - that at that time only had SEVEN women on staff.  The most challenging thing was working while pregnant, nursing, and the unbelievable things that happen when you have young children who have NO concept of your work life.  I can't tell you how many of these similar incidents have happened to me.  OMG.

One of the things that broke me was when my son was two, I was forced to be the technical lead on a multimillion dollar redesign of the soldier system.  There were five 'tech leads' across this enormous team led by General Dynamics and I was not only the only woman but I was more than 20 years the junior of any of my contemporaries.  I stood out like a sore thumb briefing the generals and once the Secretary of Defense on our progress.  The project was 9 months long and required over 80 hours each week (I ended up injuring my arm - it went completely numb from overuse on the project).  So the balance of having my husband leading a start-up and this 2-year old was just mind-numbingly hard.

He was in a day care next to my workplace which was far from my husband.  So I would often have to go get him, feed him dinner, and then bring him to work and try to keep him occupied until my husband (always working late) could swing by and grab him and go home - expecting me home even later.  So David spent hours crawling around the industrial design firm next door where our prototype work was going on, sleeping under the conference table or hiding under my desk.  And that was when he was being cooperative.  Usually he realized we were going to my work when I didn't take the turn to the highway and would start wailing in the backseat.  At a company where there were only a handful of female engineers in the first place... well this was more than hard.   My having kids wasn't seen as amusing or normal - it was an inconvenience to them.  Male PhDs could have kids but not female ones.

One particular incident happened at a local hotel.  The company had brought in one of the top generals from Desert Storm as a consultant to teach me how to brief the Secretary of Defense and other top military brass.  My husband was supposed to pick up David so I was free - but he was stuck in an airport not able to get back to Boston.  So I was sooooo stuck.  I had to excuse myself and run around the corner to get David and bring him back.  One of the other women on the project tried to keep him amused in the hotel lobby - but he escaped and got to mommy.  I was mortified (a bit more than the day I went to the bathroom after a big presentation to a client to find in the mirror that I had whitish little handprints up my legs on my nice suit).  Well, the general bent over to me and whispered to me what a lovely young man I had with a huge smile - effectively telling me that it was OK.  David sat happily on my lap the rest of the meeting while I conversed about our strategy and how to present it effectively.  It took someone who had been to war and dealt with the deaths of young men under their command to put perspective in the moment and assure me of what was important in the world and that he didn't see me as any less because my kid sometimes intruded into the work space.  I had such respect for that man!


  1. My daughter should receive her DMA in May, and has forgone any idea of having children because of the conflicts. More power to you, Tricia, for not only having children, but also being so involved in raising them to be such wonderful young men. They, at least, will not carry forward the stigma of women in the workplace having children. Way to go!

  2. You are amazing! I hope I can do the same once I have children.

  3. And that's also why the General is the General...sensitivity, wisdom and common sense are the foundation of good leadership! Also, the other men seeing that THAT is the way you treat female colleagues are being taught a good lesson! Finally, it does not appear to have hurt David one little bit to have been raised under a lab table - more likely to have been a leg up!

  4. I think all we working mother's laughed with this distracted family, hopefully they can see the funny side. Been there, done that. Like you Tricia, I was often the only woman in the work force as my chosen career as an accountant led me into manufacturing & finally as CFO in an agricultural machinery manufacturer. I have to say that I find it sad that young women today choose not to have children as it conflicts with their career....for one thing they will miss a lot of things to laugh over in later life and no kids to do the archiving in the summer holidays! (My 47yo son still talks of the slave labour in the store room!) Mind you the time I came closest to hitting a man was an hydro-electric engineer who told me I was a 'clever little girl (I was over 40)" for being a consultant accountant! He was sooooo close to a fist in the face, my colleague dragged me out of the room. LOL